Diabetes affects 13% of American adults, and another 34.5% have prediabetes and are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes . As the most expensive chronic condition, diabetes costs the country an annual $327 billion in medical costs and lost productivity. Diabetes self-management is essential for controlling blood sugar, but patients need support for making healthy choices.
Telehealth is increasingly accepted as a necessary component of healthcare. It can increase access to care while reducing the burden on the healthcare system and improving patient health. Lark for Diabetes is a fully digital telehealth nurse that can help patients manage blood sugar through behavior changes. Proven telehealth solutions such as Lark can change the landscape of diabetes management.
Opportunities for Telehealth in Diabetes Management
Only about half of patients with diabetes have glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) under a general target of 7%, and 15.5% have HbA1C over 9% . A value under 7% is often linked to improved outcomes, while increasing values generally lead to greater risk for microvascular complications and comorbidities, such as stroke, diabetic neuropathy, and kidney failure, as well as with increased frequency or severity of hypoglycemic episodes. Lowering A1C by even 1% can reduce annual costs due to related complications by over $804 per person .
A range of self-management behaviors are necessary to control blood sugar, but only a minority of patients with diabetes are engaging in all of the recommended behaviors, such as losing weight, achieving physical activity goals, monitoring blood glucose as recommended, and adhering to medication prescriptions.
A variety of telehealth interventions can potentially support improved glycemic control. They may work via increasing access to care, education, tracking, support, and more. These are some examples of telehealth in diabetes.
- Remote patient monitoring (RPM), in which patient-generated data is sent to providers, who analyze it and provide feedback.
- Virtual (such as phone or video chat) appointments when possible instead of in-person ones.
- Ordering prescriptions and testing supplies online and receiving them through the mail or other delivery services.
- Online portals to share information with providers.
- Diet and fitness apps.
Lark for Diabetes combines many telehealth approaches. This fully digital nurse is powered by artificial intelligence (AI), and it leverages proven behavior change techniques to help patients make small changes for better outcomes. Areas of focus include weight loss, physical activity, blood glucose monitoring, taking medications as prescribed, and more, through personalized coaching that is available 24/7.
Benefits of Telehealth
Chronic care management, including in diabetes, currently falls short, but telehealth can help improve the situation. Benefits of telehealth in diabetes management can come from improved patient outcomes, lower costs and increased revenues, and reducing in-person visits.
Improving Patient Health
Patient outcomes can potentially improve due to telehealth, for many reasons. Patients are more likely to get the care they need when access is easier. Virtual check-ins, online refills, and web-based portals can all allow patients to access care without having transportation or taking significant amounts of time off work to get to and attend appointments. Lark is a digital health coach that patients can access on their smartphones without limits or appointments.
These can increase education on diabetes self-management, increased access to care, and more readily available prescriptions and testing supplies. Also, they may increase patient accountability and help patients remember to make healthy choices. The result can be better control of patient blood glucose levels.
Reduced Costs and Increased Revenues
Better patient health leads to fewer costly hospitalizations and visits to the emergency rooms as risk for complications decreases and improved glycemic control leads to fewer severe bouts of hypoglycemia.
Care that is provided can be less costly. For example, Medicare reimbursement for virtual check-ins is the same as for in-person short appointments, and remote visits are now paid at the same rate as regular appointments .
As costs are reduced, revenues can increase via means such as RPM, since providers can now bill specifically for time spent on RPM, and patient-generated data are now more accessible. A potentially greater patient load due to more remote appointments can further increase physician revenue.
Avoiding In-Person Visits
The use of telehealth can reduce the number of in-person visits to hospitals, emergency rooms, and other healthcare facilities. Trading virtual for in-person appointments directly reduces the number of in-person visits that patients make. In addition, if telehealth improves diabetes management, patients will have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the ER, which further keeps them out of brick-and-mortar clinics.
Reducing in-person visits to traditional healthcare facilities can have health and economic benefits. During the COVID-19 crisis, a critical benefit of this is reducing the risk of becoming infected, which is even more important because patients with diabetes are at high risk for getting infected and having more serious cases of COVID-19.
Keeping patients with diabetes healthy and home can also reduce the burden on the healthcare system – another major concern during the COVID-19 crisis. Furthermore, avoiding long waits in waiting rooms can increase patient satisfaction with their doctors.
Personalized Diabetes Management with Telehealth
Lark for Diabetes is a digital nurse that supports patients in managing their blood sugar. The emphasis is on making small behavior changes to help patients engage in behaviors that can help control blood sugar, such as losing weight, increasing physical activity, monitoring blood glucose, and taking medications properly. Features include education, in-the-moment feedback, goal setting, tracking, and reports on trends.
With this telehealth solution, Lark patients can get care anytime, anywhere. Furthermore, Lark is powered by AI, enabling users to receive increasingly personalized feedback the more they use the app. Lark has proven outcomes, including a 1% reduction in A1C in an analysis of participants who used Lark for 6 months.
Telehealth has the potential to revolutionize healthcare, leading to better outcomes, reduced costs, and less of a burden on the healthcare system. Lark for Diabetes is an infinitely scalable solution that can help with all of these as it helps patients manage blood sugar.